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Atlanta Beat 2-2 Western New York Flash: Easter brings second half shootout

The Atlanta Beat and Western New York Flash played to a 2-2 draw on Sunday at KSU Soccer Stadium.  After a dull first half, the Atlanta crowd that turned up for the Easter Sunday match was treated to a spectacular second half that featured three high quality goals.

It looked initially like it could be a long night for Atlanta after Christine Sinclair opened the scoring for the Flash in just the second minute when she beat an out of position Alli Lipsher to put the visitors up 1-0.

The rest of the half progressed with little to be desired.  Most notable was a 30th minute chance for Atlanta when Cat Whitehill sent a long free kick into the box.  Flash goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris missed-played the ball and came out to punch it, but she missed the ball and allowed Beat defender Keeley Dowling to get a flick-on header.  However, Dowling’s header went out of bounds and did not trouble the Flash.

The second half would bring a much more exciting match.

Four minutes after being shutdown by Whitney Engen on a 1-v.-1 opportunity, Atlanta midfielder Lori Chalupny tied the game with a stunning strike from just over 20 yards out.  Chalupny cut inside from the left flank and fired a low, knuckling shot that eluded Harris and smacked off the inside of the post and into the net.

Nine minutes later, the Flash answered back with a goal from Marta, who entered the game at halftime.  The five-time FIFA World Player of the Year headed in a cross from Sinclair in the 66th minute to put Western New York up 2-1.

But the Beat would not give up.  Similar to Chalupny’s goal, the Beat’s equalizer came from the same flank.  Carli Lloyd cut inside and blasted a shot from 20 yards out that dipped under the crossbar and beat Harris to level the match.

The game would end tied at 2-2 thanks to superior goalkeeping on both ends.  In the 78th minute, Harris pushed away Kristina Larsen’s effort from the top of the 18-yard-box.  Lipsher then saved the game and the point for Atlanta by making two critical saves in the final minutes: First on a Caroline Seger shot in the 87th minute and again on Sinclair’s shot two minutes later.

“I’m obviously proud of the girls,” Beat Head Coach James Galanis said.  “They came out and moved in the second half.  The hardest challenge is making them believe they can compete at this level.  Today was a great result.  It’s going to help them with their confidence and help them believe that they are an amazing little team.  They’re young and they’re exciting.”

Next week the two teams meet again at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, N.Y.

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